Welsh farming unions welcome ‘Brexit and Our Land’ statement

Farmers’ unions in Wales have given a “cautious welcome” to the Welsh Government’s review of responses to the ‘Brexit and our Land’ consultation.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) said it was a “step towards recognising the threats and opportunities both Brexit and changes to rural support could bring”.

FUW president Glyn Roberts said many of the union’s concerns had been acknowledged.

In its response to the Brexit and our Land consultation, the FUW had advocated the creation of a Policy Reform Group responsible for the creation of a ‘roadmap’ setting out how current policies might be evolved into schemes to meet all of Wales’ Wellbeing Goals while minimising risks.

“Such a group would cooperate in a spirit of co-production and be responsible for setting key milestones; assessing policy developments in terms of Brexit, trade etc.; undertaking modelling to assess impacts and dangers of policy proposals and assessing the manageability of any changes in terms of Welsh Government resources,” said Roberts.

“We have always recognised that there are opportunities to make significant improvements to the current policy to better deliver jobs, prosperity, environmental goods and a host of other benefits.

“There are all sorts of inventive mechanisms by which this might be achieved, as well as decades-old concepts -such as payments for public goods – and many of these are being considered by the EU as they develop their own reform proposals.

It is no good finding out that the promises of sustainability and prosperity made in speeches were hollow by watching businesses and communities going to the wall – the only way to minimise this risk is to undertake thorough modelling, piloting and economic impact assessments.

In October 2018, the FUW and NFU Cymru jointly launched a document in response to the Brexit and our Land consultation entitled ‘A Welsh Way Forward’, which identified key principles aimed at placing Welsh food, farming, livelihoods, communities and the environment on a firm post-Brexit footing.

NFU Cymru said the Welsh Government statement had “gone some way” towards acknowledging some of the key themes raised by the union in its response last year.

NFU Cymru president John Davies said: “While we welcome the Minister’s recognition that sustainable food production can go hand-in-hand with the delivery of public goods, we await with interest publication of the consultation next month and further clarification on the detail of the policy changes that Welsh Government is now proposing following the previous consultation exercise.

“We want to see the integration and alignment of Welsh Government farming policy with the targets set for the next Food and Drink Action Plan.

In our response to the consultation last autumn, we put forward our proposal for an integrated sustainable agriculture programme based on three cornerstones of productivity, the environment and stability.

“A policy that would deliver increased financial resilience; maintain and enhance our environment and treasured landscape; underpin further growth of the food and drink industry and drive investment, innovation and productivity.

“We hope that the Welsh Government proposals for a sustainable farming scheme will match our ambitions for sustainable growth.

“NFU Cymru has always maintained that Pillar One support delivered under the CAP has been an essential tool in protecting farmers against volatility and thus helping to secure the supply of safe, high quality, affordable food for the consumer.

Over time, direct support to farmers has evolved significantly, and as we move forward, we recognise the need for the further evolution of agricultural policy in Wales.

“But what we cannot support is the phasing out of this type of measure until there is clear evidence that the replacement policy can deliver at least the same level of stability for farming businesses, the food supply chain and rural communities.

“We are facing a time of unprecedented uncertainty with the very real threat of a ‘No-deal’ Brexit and the implications this would have on trade for our core products, the challenge of climate change and the increasing escalation of global trade wars.

“Therefore, measures that provide stability to Welsh farming businesses are more important than ever to ensure that our sector can continue to provide economic, environmental, social and cultural sustainability in line with the Well-being of Future Generations Act.”

Davies added that he urged the Minister to make full use of the flexibility she has to vary the length of the transition period to ensure future support policies have been thoroughly road-tested.

“There remains much uncertainty over future funding for Welsh farming,” he added.

“We are clear that commitments made in the run-up to the EU Referendum must be honoured and Welsh farming must not lose out on a penny of funding post-Brexit, with support currently received from the EU as well as the match funding from Welsh Government maintained at current levels, going forward.

“A policy that is simple and practical to deliver, robustly piloted and supports all sectors and areas of Wales; safeguarding food security and facilitating the delivery of outcomes that benefit the whole of society.”